Thierry Michon and Domaine Saint Nicolas – Biodynamic Loire Wines

Thierry Michon domaine saint nicolas LoireThierry Michon knew he would convert the land his father farmed since 1960, and the whole of Domaine Saint-Nicolas to biodynamics. Over the years he bought buffer zones to keep chemical products used by nearby vineyards from seeping into his land. And today he’s producing some of the most sought after wines from the tiny Fiefs Vendéens appellation in the Loire Valley.

Spoiler Alert! This month Jill Barth from L’Occasion is hosting the French Winophiles group of writers and bloggers with the theme “Loire Valley Summer Escape”. Jill writes about many aspects of wine. One of the places you can find her is on Forbes. Scroll down for a list of #Winophiles participants and information about our August 15th Twitter chat.

Let’s Talk Loire

Loire

Source: Society of Wine Educators http://societyofwineeducators.org/

The Loire Valley is France’s largest white wine region and second largest sparkling wine producer. Red wine is produced too, scattered within most areas of the Loire. It has fifty one appellations (AOC/AOP), six broader IGP Loire Valley indications (Protected Geographical Indication) and Vin de France. It’s known not only for wine but also grandiose castles. Close your eyes for a minute you’re fine, three minutes and you might miss one.

A gorgeous three to four hour drive from Paris puts you in Nantes, home of Muscadet and the western most Loire Valley sub-region.

If you continue heading southwest you enter Vendée (equivalent to a county in the US) and the newest Loire appellation.

Fiefs Vendéens, Tiny and Mighty

Just eighteen vignerons, otherwise known as people who grow grapes for winemaking, are located in this appellation. These committed folk hung in there to successfully see their land become official in 2011- Fiefs Vendéens AOC/AOP!

Negrette grapes fiefs vendeens aoc loireIt’s rather obscure, located between Cognac and Nantes. Unlike other Loire AOCs which work with just a few grapes, the Fief allows several:

Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Grolleau Gris, Gamay, Pinot Noir, Négrette (seen to the left), and Cabernet Franc.

Five communal appellations (sub-zones) divide the region. The locals refer to them as terroirs: Brem, Chantonnay, Mareuil, Pissotte and Vix.

loire valley

Fiefs Vendéens AOC in the Loire Valley and the five sub-zones. Photo source: http://www.fiefsvendeens.com/

Each sub-zone is different geologically. Brem, closest to the Atlantic Ocean, has alluvium and clayey schist (slate) soils. Chantonnay further inland causes vines to grow deep in an ancient fault line on gneiss and metamorphic amphibolite soils. Maueuil has mellow slopes of hyolites and schists. Pissotte along the Vendée river has red schist soils. And Vix is all about gravel and limestone.

The area as a whole is surrounded by old salt marshes, forests, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. A continual wind off the Atlantic blows inward carrying with it the smells of the sea and salt. Try to imagine being at the coast on a breezy day and breathing deeply through your nose. That’s the sea breeze, saline smell I’m talking about.

Lastely, for sunshine lovers, it’s pretty much on par with the south of France, meaning sunny days dominate!

Let’s take a look at Thierry Michon and what he’s doing on his land in Brem.

An Independent Ecosystem Outside and In

Negrette grapes Fiefs Vendéens AOCHe’s sometimes called a guru, the king of biodynamics and/or the Chenin master. He’s also one of the worlds fastest oyster shuckers and apparently quite a jovial character. Several YouTube videos watched and articles I read confirm this is indeed true!

Taking care of the soil is a priority for Michon as it allows his 40 hectares (98 acres) of vines to fully express themselves and protects the surrounding environment. The vehicle for him to do this is biodynamics- it preserves soil microbial and plant life and more. Domaine Saint Nicolas holds Biodyvin certification since 1995.

 

Thierry Michon Fiefs Vendéens biodynamicMichon is joined by his two sons, Mickaël and Antoine as seen above. Antoine is in charge of production in the cellar and vineyard where they grow Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Groslot Gris, Cabernet Franc, Négrette, Gamay, and Pinot Noir. Mickael works on permaculture and establishing a farm with in the vines. Creating an independent, synergistic ecosystem is the goal. This includes making all biodynamic herbal infusions for vineyard treatments.

Moving to the cellar, wines spontaneously ferment as Michon feels cultured yeast changes the taste of the wine. They don’t fine nor filter and minimal sulfites. The whites and rosés are vinified, and if applicable, aged in large, neutral oak casks. Reds are aged in the same, or barrels. They use amphorae for select wines.

wine barrels domaine saint nicolas fiefs vendeens

An example of the large wooden casks Michon uses for some of his wines. Source: Domaine Saint Nicolas

When it comes to the timing of decisions, e.g., planting, treatment application, and harvesting, the Thun biodynamic calendar is utilized. (We now know three wineries utilizing this calendar, the other two are Chateau Feely and Chateau de Monfaucon, both in the Bordeaux area.)

Domaine Saint Nicolas In My Glass

I purchased three wines, opting for varietal versus blends. Of course I couldn’t resist a rosé!

2018 La Poiré Blanc – Vin de France |100% Chenin Blanc | 28€

domaine saint nicolas La Poire Blanc chenin blancOne of the Domaine’s “signature” cuvées, Michon chose very high maturity and concentration for the grapes here grown on sandy clay and blue schist soil. Fermentation with natural yeast stopped at the end of winter with about ten grams of residual sugar. Cold stabilization followed. Aging occurred in the large casks for ten months.

Aromas and Taste: Clear straw in color, it has pronounced lemon, tangarine, nectarine, persimmon, white lily, and crushed sea stone minerality. These flowed to the barely detectable off-dry palate as well as citrus-stone fruit preserves with a creamy quality. It has medium-plus acidity and body with a long finish and balanced structure.

Mark and I were absolutely wowed! I didn’t read the details before tasting this and expected a dry wine. The integration of residual sugars is remarkable… bright acidity and mineral quality carry it past the faint sugar hint with such precesion it almost vibrates on the palate. A beautifully structured, rich, deep and elegant wine, absolutely irresistible. Can you tell I liked it?!?

I see sipping this with roasted necatarines or peaches topped with buratta and a light honey drizzle.

2017 La Poire Rouge – Fiefs Vendées Brem | 21€

Negrétte Vendéens LoireAn intriguing 100% Négrette wine from vines planted on schist, quartz and clay soils. Négrette is mostly found around Toulouse in the Fronton region of sud-ouest France.

 It aged eighteen months in the large wooden casks. The wine pours deep purple in color with a ruby rim. Aromas and flavors consist of black and blue berry, violet and pepper spice. On the palate the fruit is crisp and dense with a medium overall structure. Visions of grilled tri-tip, wild mushroom ravioli or lamb tagine with this wine.

Gammes d’Été Rosé – Vin de France | 10€

Thierry Michon domaine saint nicolas rosé gammes d'étéNothing says life of the party like this rosé, a blend of four grapes: Gamay 60%, Négrette 30%, Grolleau Gris 5% and Pinot Noir 5%.

A direct press wine with fermentation on natural yeasts and no sulfur then seven months in stainless vats.

It pours medium pink in color with aromas and flavors of red and black cherry, wild raspberry and pepper spice hints. These flow to the medium-intensity palate with barely noticeable low tannins, vibrant acidity and a fine mineral core. The variety of summer- “Gammes d’Éte” as depicted on the label- is a playful wine to enjoy with a variety of foods or by itself. It definitely holds its own.

For information and links to find these wines scroll to the bottom.

French Winophiles Escape to the Loire

Join us for a Twitter chat tomorrow, August 15th at 8am Pacific Time, 17:00 CEST with the hashtag #Winophiles. Comment, share or just follow along. Here are links to what we will talk about:

Find these wines in the States:

Information Links:

25 thoughts on “Thierry Michon and Domaine Saint Nicolas – Biodynamic Loire Wines

    1. Lynn Post author

      And this Chenin in particular is rich and palate pleasing. Can certainly see it with pork chops Terri!

      Reply
  1. MARTIN D REDMOND

    When we visited France in ’18 we considered a side trip to Loire, but didn’t feel we could do it justice in a short period of time. Your wines all sound like winners Lynn and thanks for the introduction to Fiefs Vendéens, which I was unfamiliar with! Loire is such a great wine region!

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      I stumbled upon Fiefs Vendéens via Michon, it’s new for me too. Really looking forward to a trip up there. I’ll scope it out for your next visit?!?

      Reply
  2. John

    His Négrette sounds scrumptious. Never sipped on that varietal, yet. The entire Biodynamic grape producing story is so young, yet vibrant and intriguing. His wines sound so approachable – like he, himself.

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      Yes, the Negrétte was a treat. I’d love to eat oysters with Michon someday. He certainly seems to be quite a character!

      Reply
  3. Andrea

    What an amazing commitment they’re making farming this way. Because making wine isn’t already difficult enough…sounds like it pays off though! The wines you featured sound really lovely.

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      It, meaning biodynamics, is truly a way of life for Michon and his family from what I read. I’m looking forward to trying more of his wines now!

      Reply
  4. David

    sounds like an amazing lineup of wine! And so interesting to learn of this new (to me) AOC. The Chenin sounds especially appealing.

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      I ended up going down a Fiefs Vendéens rabbit hole trying to find information but there really isn’t much specific written about it so I’ll continue to drink Domaine Saint Nicolas wine (the Negrétte was really fantastic too) until I can make a trip there!

      Reply
  5. robincgc

    What a fascinating region. This is a region I have not explored and now I really want to! How fantastic that this sub-appellation is right on the coast.
    I love that Thierry Michon bought buffer zones! I think this is so important when you are farming biodynamically.
    I was so surprised when you spoke about the integration of sugars in the Le Poire blanc. With 20 grams of rs and expecting a dry wine…that speaks volumes to the quality of winemaking and the fruit coming in from the vineyard.
    I might need to join you on that rabbit hole. If you make it to the region, please post more!

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      I did a double take regarding the rs. I’m going to circle back with the winery to make sure what was written wasn’t a type. Regardless, I bow to Michon, that wine and what he’s doing in Fiefs.

      Reply
  6. Linda Whipple, CSW

    I’m intrigued by tiny and mighty Fiefs Vendéens and see a trip down the rabbit hole ahead of me, too. Isn’t it wonderful when you discover a new subregion? Thierry Michon is definitely a name I want to search out.

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      Always great to increase wine knowledge and stumble upon small gems. Hope you’re able to find his wine Linda, thanks for your comment!

      Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      You are most welcome Nicole, an interesting story. Thierry Michon was the only vigneron there for a while, perhaps I’ll write more!

      Reply
  7. Lauren

    Delightful wines! I love the description of the first one – I’m coming around to the delicate balance between sugar and acidity, realizing just how gorgeous a well-made sweet wine can be. And it’s interesting that Thierry bought up adjacent plots to serves as barriers against chemicals. That’s something I’ve never thought about when considering the costs of organic/biodynamic agriculture.

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      I thought the same regarding the barrier plots but can see why he’d want to do so. I’ve chatted with a few vineyard owners who mentioned difficulties with neighboring chemical use. How frustrating when one is trying to do the right thing. Thank you for stopping by Lauren!

      Reply
  8. Pingback: Wine Thirsty? That’s No Problem in France’s Loire Valley – L'OCCASION

  9. Pinny Tam

    Your pairing tips for the 2017 La Poire Rouge – Fiefs Vendées Brem with grilled tri-tip, wild mushroom ravioli or lamb tagine are so spot-on.

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      Glad you liked them Pinny! I especially thing this wine will sing with the ravioli and a light tomato sauce.

      Reply
  10. Payal

    Lovely photos, and what a great intro to Fiefs Vendéens AOC/AOP! I will certainly seek out wines from there!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.